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Is The “Poor Man’s Copyright” Enough Protection?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2023 | BUSINESS & COMMERCIAL LAW - Intellectual Property

When you create something new, whether that’s a novel, a piece of music or a complicated bit of code, you naturally want to protect your intellectual property from theft and unauthorized use.

Many people – including professionals – are still under the misconception, however, that a “poor man’s copyright” is a sufficient way to safeguard their creative works. 

What is a poor man’s copyright?

A poor man’s copyright is a colloquial term for a method creators sometimes use to establish a dated record of their creative work without officially registering for copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. 

The process typically involves mailing a copy of the work to yourself and leaving the sealed envelope unopened. The idea behind this is to create a dated proof of creation and ownership by virtue of the postal stamp, in case a legal dispute ever arises.

While the concept of a “poor man’s copyright” may seem practical and cost-effective, it has several limitations and drawbacks that make it an unreliable method for protecting your creative works. 

Most importantly, it does not hold any legal weight in a court of law. Simply mailing a copy of your work to yourself doesn’t provide the same level of protection as formal copyright registration. Plus, while mailing a copy to yourself might establish a date of possession, it does little to demonstrate your authorship or ownership. 

Copyright registration, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive record of your work’s authorship and ownership. If you end up in a copyright dispute, having a registered copyright provides a much stronger legal foundation for your case.